Carson, Calif. •Â Javier Morales joined the action late for Real Salt Lake, in its season opener against the defending Major League Soccer champion Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday night.
But he was still just in time.
The star midfielder who missed most of last season after a horrific ankle injury scored the winning goal in a dramatic 3-1 comeback victory, just 13 minutes after entering as a substitute at the Home Depot Center.
He picked up a yellow card for ripping off his jersey in celebration, but he hardly cared.
"Last year was a long year for me," he said. "I was really working in the preseason to be ready for this game."
Morales did not score in any of the eight games he played last season after recovering from his injury, and he missed much of training camp recovering from a separate ankle surgery during the offseason and a strained quadriceps muscle.
Coach Jason Kreis kept him and forward Alvaro Saborio on the bench to start the game, knowing he's not yet fully fit.
But you wouldn't have known it when Morales wedged his way between Galaxy defenders at the 6-yard box in the 80th minute of a tie game and poked home his first goal since scoring his only two goals of last season in a 4-1 home win over the Galaxy last March 26.
"When Javi comes on the field," goalkeeper Nick Rimando said, "you know something is going to happen."